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May 12, 2009
Preparations: What to pack

“When preparing to travel, lay out all your clothes and all your money. Then take half the clothes and twice the money.”
– Susan Heller

When vacationing tourists sign up for a “trek” – walking through Africa, France, England or wherever – they get to stroll through the countryside unencumbered by baggage. There is usually a truck that transports all of their luggage from Point A to Point B as they casually meander the same path.

(In fact, trekkers usually have a chase car accompanying them in case they get tired or hungry, as well as a hot meal waiting at Point B. But I digress.)

For my 160-mile birthday walk, I will have no such amenities. I did entertain the idea of having Gail drop-ship various bags of clothes and supplies along the way, so I would have them waiting for me at various motels. In the end though, the important symbolism of the trip won me over. (One of these days, important symbolism will be the death of me.) In the same way that it is important for me to walk the entire distance, it is important for me to carry everything with me on my walk. In other words, I must travel lightly.

Fortunately, I have had some practice. When we went around the world for an entire year in 2001-2002, we limited ourselves to one carry-on suitcase and one backpack each. (In actuality, we finished the trip with a couple of extra suitcases, mainly due to the acquisition of several dozen stuffed animals along the way.) If I could pack that lightly for an entire year covering four seasons, surely I can pack even lighter for two weeks in a single season!

So early on, I made a mental note that I would limit myself to a single daypack. Once this mental note entered my mind it never left, and it became a fundamental basis for all of my planning. (As Gail wrote yesterday, I get that way sometimes.)

The daypack I will use is the same one that I purchased halfway around the world in 2002 when my old one fell apart. I’ve been using it ever since. All of my clothes will be drip-dry. Coincidentally, many of them are also leftover from my world trip – I haven’t had much occasion to use them since, so they’ve been sitting in a drawer.

The advantage of synthetic materials is that they wick away moisture, and wash and dry both easily and rapidly. The disadvantage is that they retain body odor. I will therefore also bring a small bottle of shampoo that I will use to wash my laundry every evening. In theory, one set of clothes can be worn while the other set dries on the back of my daypack. The only exception is socks: I am bringing four pairs of wool lightweight hiking socks.

A pair of walking shoes, backed up by a pair of hiking sandals.

A set of lightweight sweats for lounging in the evenings.

A pair of trekking poles. (These look like ski poles but are meant for street or dirt hiking, with rubber tips on the bottoms. Supposedly, they help you exercise your upper body while walking, enabling you to burn off 40 percent more calories.)

Toiletries. These include travel-sized everything, medications, and a bottle of Blue Lizard Australian 30+ SPF suncream. (When I did a web search on “best sun tan lotion,” Blue Lizard universally came up.)

A book of crossword puzzles. (I read several years ago that doing a crossword puzzle every day will help you avoid Alzheimer’s Disease, dementia and general senility. I still do a crossword puzzle every day, several years later.)

Two one-quart water bottles in a fanny pack. The fanny pack will also hold sunglasses, glasses, a water mister, lightweight mittens, a UV-shielded baseball cap, a flashlight, a camera, and – as I mentioned the other day – emergency snack foods.

Maps of particularly troublesome areas.

And – again, as I mentioned the other day – a lightweight backpacking chair, strapped to the back of the daypack.

Two things I am not bringing are an umbrella and a jacket. (This decision is subject to change as the departure date approaches.)

What I haven’t covered in this list are the various electronic gizmos that will enable me to entertain myself and communicate with the outside world. I will get to those in my next entry.

My seven-year-old European daypack, with backpacking chair strapped on.

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